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Michael Moore Education. (2011) Michael Moore ('Here Comes Trouble.')

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Michigan 17, Us 15, Sammy 11, New York 8, Michael Moore 7, Nagasaki 5, Heaven 3, America 3, Hiroshima 3, Elks 2, Walter Cronkite 2, New York City 2, Flynt 2, Bobby Kennedy 2, Washington 2, Catholic 2, Detroit 2, Me 2, Japan 2, Monticello 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Michael Moore  Education.  (2011)  
   Michael Moore ('Here Comes Trouble.')  

    September 18, 2011
    8:00 - 9:00am EDT  

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for more best sellers go to chicagotribune.com and click on arts and entertainment. .. [cheers and applause] >> thank you. thank you very much, and welcome to new york fashion week.
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[laughter] i normally am a fan of michigan state, but i don't know if you saw the game on saturday with michigan and notre dame, but it was quite something. enough about football. [laughter] huh? >> [inaudible] >> it's, well, i'm just amazed at the turnout here. i thank you for coming out on this night to be here. thank you very much. [cheers and applause] they even gave me a sippy cup. [laughter] i know you're all still recovering from the cnn tea party/republican debate last night. [laughter] how is it that cnn can actually join hands with the tea party,
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and together -- wolf blitzer said our partners, the tea party express. and i'm like, what kind of alternate universe is this? [laughter] i don't think it is. actually, it's the way it is now, suspect -- isn't it? can you imagine a debate that's called the cnn/teachers' union debate? [laughter] because i will contend there are more members of the teachers' union than there are of the tea party. [cheers and applause] i just don't think we're going to see that debate very soon. but anyways, i have a number of things going through my head that i'd like to say, and we're going to have a time during the q&a to talk about politics and what's going on, and, um, and be there'll be microphones. this is being taped for c-span
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tonight, one of our great national resources in this country, the only truly objective documentary -- [applause] there's no editing. um, but usually when i speak, they have to run -- in fact, i don't think i've had a c-span appearance where they haven't had to run a disclaimer saying that things are going to be said, language is going to be used and, please, remove the children from the room. [laughter] so i am going to attempt tonight to -- how's that, is that better? i'm going to attempt tonight to not have to see that disclaimer of c-span at the head of this show. so let's see, let's see how i do can. and we'll put a quarter in the sippy cup for every time i violate the thing. [laughter] i've written this book, it's a book of short stories. they're all nonfiction short
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stories. i love the short story form, and, um, i love reading short stories, and i've always wanted to write them. and i thought -- i don't know if i've ever seen a book of nonfiction short stories, so i decided to write one. so there's two dozen stories in here, and they're all based on events that took place in my lifetime between this age on the cover which is me at, i have to say that's me at 13 months, although i look like i'm 3. [laughter] my poor mother. and the picture on the back which is me on west 55th street here in manhattan the day i turned in "roger and me" to the lab to make the first print that we were going to take to the film festival. and so -- [applause] so all these stories pretty much
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take place during that. except the first story in the book is called "the epilogue," and it's actually the last story in the next volume that will come out, you know, two or three years from now. and i decided to start with the last story of that book as the first story in this book. i'm not on drugs. the reason, the reason for that is i kind of wanted to start in the present of where i've been and then start, take a look back through how i got, how i got to this point. and i'm not going to read this entire -- actually, i'm only going to read the little opening of the first chapter, or the first story in the book which is called "the ec cushion of michael -- execution of michael moore." you can read it online. the guardian has printed an excerpt from this chapter, and it goes through what happened to me after i gave that oscar speech and where it was the
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fifth day of the war, and i went out on the stage, and i said thank you -- i hope i said thank you. [laughter] but i want to know where i went there there, but i forgot to thank my agent and my wardrobe designer and my hairstylist and the other people i was supposed to thank. and i invited up my fellow nominees, the other four documentary film makers, and together i said, you know, we make nonfiction films, but we live in fictitious times. of we live in a time with a president who was elected with fictitious election results, and now we are in the fifth day of a war that has been inaugurated due to a very large piece of fiction, that fiction, of course, being that there would be weapons of mass destruction there. so i was properly booed off the stage for saying all of this, and in this chapter i describe what happened to me backstage
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that night, when we went home to michigan, and the ensuing death threats. and, actually, i could have handled it if it was just the death threats, but it went from there into actual attempted assaults on me, physical assaults and then, finally, a young man who had decided to blow up our house. and, um, only because he had a large, he had this whole cache of weapons and bomb-making equipment, and one night he was kind of getting it all together, and his ak-47 went off in his apartment. as ak-47s are want to do. and a neighbor called the police, and they came, and they arrested him, and they read his hit list, and i was at the top of his hit list. the others were rosie o'donnell, janet reno, um, essentially, it was a group of lesbians and me.
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[laughter] i don't know how i made that list, but i felt somewhat honored. [laughter] but, um, i just want to read you just a snippet of this, of how this chapter begins, and i'm going to move to a few other things in the book. i'd just like to read a few interprets of some of -- excerpts of some of the things in the book, and then we'll open et up to the floor. -- it up to the floor. but this is how the book begins, as it should, from the glenn beck radio show from may 17, 2005. exact quote. i'm thinking about killing michael moore. and i'm wondering if i could kill him myself, or if hyde need to -- i'd need to hire someone to do it. no, i think i could. i think he could be looking me in the eye, you know?
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and i could just be choking the life out of him. is this wrong? i stopped wearing my what would jesus do band, and i've lost all sense of right and wrong now. i used to be able to say, yeah, i'd kill michael moore, and then i'd see the little band, what would jesus do, and then i'd realize, oh, you wouldn't kill michael moore. or at least you wouldn't choke him to death. and, you know, now i'm not so sure. as this sort of vile stuff goes out over the radio and on a certain cable news channel, unfortunately, it enters the minds of those who are not entirely, um, together. and encourages them to do various, various things. so, um, so that's how the book begin cans. and -- begins. and now i want to take you back to 1965, and i was just coming
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out of fifth grade. this is from a story in the book, and the larger chapter is about a trip that we took to new york here. my mother loaded us in the car, my sisters and i because michelangelo's painting was at the new york world's fair in 1964-'65, and being good catholics, we had to go see it. even if it meant driving 800 miles from michigan. but on the way she decided to take us to washington d.c. and this is what transpired. when i finished fifth grade in the summer of 1965, my mother loaded my sisters and me into our buick and drove us to our nation's capital for our summer vacation. while the other kids in the neighborhood got to go up north or to scout camp, we were forced to see the original documents of the founding fathers, the first flag sewn by betsy ross, the
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plane charles lindbergh flew across the atlantic. we took the fbi tour of the department of justice, and we had our picture taken in front of the iwo jima statue. we traipsed from one end of pennsylvania eave to the other, climbed all 896 steps of the washington monument and paid a visit to our congressman to shake his hand and let him know that we'd be voters someday. and it was while i was there inside the capitol building, that i found myself separated from my mother and sisters and our cousin, patricia. we were on our way to sit in the senate gallery as the senators were deliberating a bill that would provide free health care for all the old people in america. but i got distracted by the statues of the senators, especially one zachariah chandler, the senator from michigan in the 1800s. i was consumed with history and the story of the republican party and how it formed in
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michigan and what a great party it was, the party of lincoln, the party to end slavery, a party of conservatives, conservatives believed in conserving their money, believed in not spending money that they didn't have, conserving our air, our water, god's gifts, our natural resources on this earth. conservation. that's what conservative meant. eventually, it dawned on me that i was all alone and on my own. my mother and sisters were nowhere in sight. i began to panic. where did they go? why did they leave me here? this i may have thought i was a smart kid, but i had no idea where i wurksz where they were or how i would find them. at age 11 the capitol rotunda seemed like its own planet to me or worse, a giant white marble vortex spinning madly. i tried to catch my breath and began walking quickly in whatever direction seemed like the way out.
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i somehow ended up on the senate side of the building and went down a staircase looking frantically for any sign of my family. realizing i was getting nowhere, i bolted through a pair of elevator doors just as they were closing. inside the elevator i began to cry. there was a lone man in the back corner leaning existence the railing -- against the railing, his face covered by the newspaper that he was reading. he heard my sniffling and put the paper down to see what the commotion was all about. as i had been properly schooled in all things political and catholic, i instantly recognized this man. he was the junior senator from new york, robert francis kennedy. what's wrong, young man, he said in a voice that was comforting enough to stop the tears. after all, no one had called me a young man before. i lost my mom, i said sheepishly. well, that can't be good. let's see if we can find her. i won't try to do a bobby
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kennedy accent. [laughter] thank you, i said. where are you from? michigan. near flynt. oh, yes. my brother loved that labor day parade. big parade. the doors of the elevator opened, and he put his arm on my shoulder and escorted me to the nearest capitol police officer. seems this young man from michigan, he turned to me -- what's your name, son? michael moore. michael has lost his mother, and perhaps we can help him. yes, sir, senator, we'll take care of it. the officer told the senator he'll handle the matter from here on, so that the senator could proceed with much more important duties. well, i'll stay here for a minute or two and make sure he's okay. i stood there thinking how stupid did i have to be to get lost, and now i was holding up bobby kennedy in the business of the united states senate so that
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everybody could go search for my mommy. [laughter] jeez, oh pete, was i embarrassed. how old are you, mike? can i call you mike, kennedy asked? i'm 11. this is my first time in the capitol, i offered hoping to make myself seem less like an idiot. [laughter] well, you've got your first ride on the senate elevator. that almost makes you a senator. the irish in him had now kicked in, and he flashed that kennedy grin. i smiled, too, and joined in. hey, you never know, i said, and then wanted to quickly retract this wise ass remark. i think, yeah, that's -- okay. [laughter] c-span is quickly going through their standards and practices. wise ass, i think, yes, we can say that. okay. [laughter] well, said kennedy, we've got two good democrats from
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michigan, senators mcnamara and -- hart! i jumped in as if i were on a quiz show. you know your senators, very good and promising. we've got his mother, a voice squawked across the police radio. stay there, she's coming. well, it seemed everything worked out okay, proclaimed the senator from new york. good luck, young man. and never lose sight of your mother. and with that, he was gone, before i even had a chance to thank him or wish him well or recite for him my favorite passages from if his brother's inaugural address. um, and it goes on to say we went into the gallery, and, um, they were discussing on one side of the -- i think it was the senate, they were discussing medicare, passing the medicare bill, and on the other side the voting rights act of 1965. um, from watching the evening news and being taught to read the daily newspaper at a young
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age, i knew that what they called colored people were being unfairly treated, even killed. a few months earlier in march of 1965, a white housewife from detroit upset at what she'd been seeing on television regarding the savage treatment of black people made an impromptu decision to head down to selma, alabama, to march with the reverend martin luther king. i knew king to be the negro man in charge of the civil rights movement, and in the town i lived, his name was rarely mentioned. and when it was, it eyeballly had other -- usually had other words attached to it. the woman was brutally murdered in the demonstration. it was a shock to most of michigan, and when i heard it being discussed by jesse, the barber, he incomed those -- informed those who were getting their haircut that day she was
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bound with some nigga boy in the car. jesse's shop was the place you went to for enlightenment in my town. [laughter] and the place was always full. jesse was a short man with a short haircut, and there was always a pair of scissors or a long razor in his hand. this was problematic as he wore thick-lens glasses, and it frightened me as he held court, the sharp instruments being used to make various punctuation points in the air. i asked my mother why the senators, the people on the floor were saying they didn't want some people to vote. well, some people don't want some people to vote, my mother said, trying to protect us from the fact that even united states senators could think like the men who killed the michigan woman. the next day we took an overly long car ride to monticello, the
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home of thomas jefferson. this was located deep in virginia, the real south as my mother called it. on the way back from monticello, we pulled off the highway for gas and a trip to the restroom. i walked with my mother around the back of the station where there were two doors. one was marked "white," and the other "colored," though it looked like someone had tried to scrape that last word off unsuccessfully. i stood and stared, and although i knew what it meant, i wanted to hear my mother's explanation of it. what is this, i asked? she looked at the signs and was silent for a moment. you know what it is. just go in there and do your business and get out. i went into the colored bathroom, and she went into the whites'. when we came out, she led me back to the car. get in there and stay with your sisters. she then headed into the gas
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station with the kind of walk that we three kids knew that heads would roll. we cranked our heads out the window hoping to hear what she had to say, but all that was available was the tight-lipped motions and the gestures she made with her index finger. she came back outside to the car and got in if and said nothing. what were you doing, i asked? just mind your business, she said, cutting me off, and lock your doors. this would be the only time in my life i would hear such a demand when in the vicinity of all-white people. we never learned what she said to the man or what he told her, and years later i like to think she'd given him a piece of her mind for her children having to witness such immorality in the united states that she loved. he might have told her that they just hadn't gotten around to taking it down yet, or he had tried, the civil rights act
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outlawing such things had just passed months earlier. or maybe he told her to get her nigger-loving ass of there, or maybe she was complaining that the ladyies' room was out of toilet paper. i was thankful as i liked my mother being alive. [applause] that's -- [applause] um, how we doing time wise? we're good? okay. the next, the next story then takes place about five or six years later. now i'm a teenager. and i've been selected to go to,
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um, boys state. do they have that here in new york? do you know what boys state and girls state is? they pick two boys and two girls in the every state, and they send you to the state capital, and you elect a governor, a lieutenant governor, you know, all this. so i decided when i got there -- because i'd been picked by my high school -- that i didn't want like it one single -- i didn't like it one single bit. i didn't want like politicians, and i stayed in my dorm room the whole week. and i only left to go down to the snack machine which had this new potato chip that had just been invented called ruffles. [laughter] and i was vus so taken with these chip-- just so taken with these chips because of the ridges in them. i loved these things, and the only time i would leave the room
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was to go down and get my ruffles potato chips. one day i go down and on the bulletin board there's a poster, and it says this: boys staters, speech contest on the life of abraham lincoln. write a speech on the life of abe lincoln and win a prize. contest sponsored by the elks club. i stood and stared at this for some time. i forgot about my ruffles. i just couldn't get over what i was reading because the previous month my dad had gone to the local elks club to join. and when he did, he found himself disappointed. they handed him an application, and at the top of the application it read: caucasians only. this is 1971. so it's the 1990s. vim -- 1970s. discrimination in private clubs and organizations was still
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allowed. being a caucasian, this should not have been a problem for frank moore, my dad. being a man of some conscious, though, it gave him pause. he brought the form home and showed it to me. what do you think about this, he asked me. i read the caucasian line and had two thoughts; do we live down south now? i mean, how much more north can you get than michigan. and isn't this illegal? my dad was clearly confused about the situation. well, i don't think i can sign this piece of paper, he said. no, you can't, i said. my dad had a very strong sense of what was right and wrong. he worked in the general motors factories which thanks to the uaw, the union, the factories by the end of the 1940s were already integrated as one of the union demands, and so he worked alongside men and women of all races. and as is the outcome of such
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social engineering, he grew to see all people as the same, or at least all the same in god's eyes. now, here i was standing in front of this poster saying that the elks club was sponsoring a contest on the life of the great emancipator. and i'm 17 years old. now, what do you do with that? i thought to myself, they want a speech? [laughter] i'll give 'em a speech. [laughter] [applause] i, i forgot about the ruffles and went back to my room and scribbled out speech. how dare the elks club besmirch the fine name of abraham lincoln by sponsoring a contest like this! i thought i'd begin with some subtlety, save the good stuff for later. [laughter] have they no shame? how is it an organization that will not allow black people
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under the guise of doing something good? what kind of example is being set for the youth sneer who allowed them in here? if boys state is to endorse any form of segregation, then by all means let it be the segregation that separates these racists from the rest of us who belief in the american way! -- who believe in the american way! [applause] the next morning i showed up for the speech contest. [laughter] there were about a dozen other boys in the room, and they all gave their speeches lauding the accomplishments of lincoln and talking about the civil war, the type of speech you'd hear at a fourth of july picnic; sweet, simple, noncontroversy. few in the room were prepared for the barrage of insults about to be hurled at the elks club. [laughter] take william jennings bryant,
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add in a healthy dose of don rickless, and that's pretty much what they were about to get from me. i thought there would be elks in the room, but instead the judge of the contest was a speech teacher from a local high school. as i gave the speech, i kept my eye on him, and nothing moved on his face. some of the boys in the room started snickering, a couple looked upset. the lone black kid in the room, he was trying to cover the smile on his face. [laughter] when the speech was over, the teacher/judge went to the head of the room and said thank you all for your well written speeches, the winner of this year's elks club boys state speech contest is michael moore. [laughter] [applause] congratulations, michael. he then proceeds to tell me that i have to give the speech tomorrow at the closinger is mopenies of boys state in front
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of the 2,000 other boys. no, no, no, no, i don't want to do that. [laughter] you don't really want me to give that speech. oh, yes, i do. [laughter] you have to give it, that's the rule. he also told me for my own good he wasn't going to mention the content of the speech to anyone before tomorrow. oh, yes, i thought, that's much better. [laughter] let them be hit with it fresh like a big surprise. [laughter] the kind of which has the speaker being chased from the great hall, his prize in one hand, his life in the other. the next day i said my final prayers and went into the great hall. thousands of boys staters were there. i was brought up on the stage. i passed the governor of michigan, the lieutenant governor, some other big wigs.
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and, um, i'm sorry about that, and then there was a man with a hat. and there were antlers on the hat. [laughter] it was not bull winkle. [laughter] and this was not halloween. this man was the chief elk, the head of all elks. and he held in his lap the elks club boys state speech trophy. [laughter] and he had a big, wide smile, a smile more appropriate for a kiwanis or rowtarian. with more teeth than i thought humanly possible. and he was so proud to see me take the podium. oh, man, i thought, this guy is about to have a very bad day. [laughter] i hope they did a patdown. [laughter] i took a deep breath and began the speech. how dare the elks club -- [laughter]
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oh, i gave the speech as i had written it. i finished with my plea that the elks change their ways. and as i turned my head to see the crimson tide that was not the face of the chief elk, his teeth resembling two chain saws ready to shed my sorry self, i blurted out -- and you can keep your stinking trophy! [laughter] [applause] the place went insane. 2,000 boys leapt to their feet, whooping and hollering and cheering me on. i was stopped by a reporter from the associated press. he introduced himself to me and said he was astonished at what he had just heard and seen, and he was going to write something about it, and who was i and
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where was i from? i broke away and keeping my head down, i avoided the main campus path and made it back to my dorm room and locked the door. about an hour later, there was a knock. hey, the anonymous voice barked, there's a call for you. the dorm rooms, you see, had no phones. there was a phone down at the end of the hallway, a pay phone. i made the long walk down to the pay phone. i needed ruffles, that's for sure. [laughter] and the phone was by the snack machine, so it made the walk necessary. i picked up the phone. hello, i answered nervously wondering who would even know that i was here. hello, is this michael moore, the voice on the line asked. yes? i'm a producer here in new york at the cbs evening news with walter cronkite. [laughter] we've got this story that just came in over the wire about what you did today, and we'd like to send a crew over to interview you for tonight's newscast.
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huh? [laughter] we're doing a story on your speech exposing the elks club and their racial policies. we want you to come on tv. come on tv? [laughter] there wasn't enough clearasil in the world to do that. [laughter] no thank you, i have to get back to my room now, bye. and i hung up the phone. i did not go on tv that night, but at some point it went on tv, and today in lansing, michigan, a 17-year-old boy gave a speech that took on the elks club and their segregationist practices, shedding light on the fact that it is still legal for private clubs in this country to discriminate on the basis of race. the next day the dorm phone rang off the hook. everybody, again, another associated press reporter, two tv networks, the naacp, a paper in new york, another in chicago. unless it involved them offering
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me free food or an introduction to a girl i might like, i did not want to be bothered. i took none of the calls. my parents were waiting outside in the car to take me back home. this much i'll say, my parents were not unhappy with my actions. when i got home, the phone continued to ring. finally, a call from the office of michigan senator phil hart. he wanted to talk to me about coming to washington. the aide said it was something about a bill that would be introduced t-bill to outlaw discrimination by private entities. a congressman would be calling me to testify in front of a congressional committee. would i be willing to do that? [laughter] no! [laughter] why were they bothering me? [laughter] hadn't i done enough? i didn't mean to cause such a ruckus. i thanked them, and i said i'd discuss it with my participants, though i never told them. i went outside to mow the lawn. the following year was not a
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good one for the elks club of america. many states denied their liquor licenses, the unkindest cut of all. [laughter] grants and funds game scarce -- became scarce, various bills in congress to stop them and other private clubs were debated and the federal courts in d.c. took away their tax-exempt status. [laughter] [applause] facing total collapse and the scorn of the majority of the nation, the elks club voted to drop their caucasian-only policy. other private clubs followed suit. the ripple effect of this was that now racial discrimination everywhere in america be it public or private was prohibited. my speech was occasionally cited as a spark for this march forward in the racial fixing of the great american experiment, but there were other speeches far more eloquent than mine. most important for me, i learned
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a valuable lesson at the age of 17. that change can occur, and it can occur anywhere with even the simplest of people and the craziest of intentions. and that creating change didn't always have to require devoting your entire, devoting your every waking hour to it with mass meetings and organizations and protests and tv appearances with walter cronkite. sometimes change can occur because all you wanted was a bag of potato chips. [laughter] [applause] [applause] i have two more short ones. do we have time to do that, or is that -- is that okay? [applause]
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sorry, t warm up here. you want the gay story in the book, right? okay. well, i will shorten this one, this excerpt. this is about the neighborhood that i lived in about that same time when i was 10 or 11 years old. i lived on a dirt street. it was a street that had two dead ends. each end of it was a dead end. [laughter] and every day i would wake up, and i would just look out one window and see dead end, and i would look out the other window and see dead end, so i was pretty much set for life there. [laughter]
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and the street that fed into it was also a dead end street, it dead ended into my street, hill street. so, anyways, but there were a lot of boys in the neighborhood, and we had a lot of fun. we'd go hunting, we'd stalk deer and rabbits, we had bb guns, bows and arrows. the participants next door -- parents next door let their kids take the bird gun out, the rifle, and they were 10. so this was pure heaven for us. we were able to shoot guns, we were 10 years old with live ammunition, it was just a wonderful way to grow up. [laughter] and the adults left us alone. and it never appeared there were any girls in the neighborhood. we always wondered where the girls were. it seemed like there were only boys in the neighborhood. in fact, if you were to press me, i could make the case that there were, in fact, no girls at all in the neighborhood. years later it would turn out we learned that, actually, the girls were there, they just spent a lot of time reading and playing instruments and making
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things and telling stories to each other and barbie. this would serve them all well once they left childhood behind, but for now they were invisible to our existence. and i guess we thought we were all the better without them. boys will not only be boys, but boys like to be with boys. and some boys like to be with certain boys a lot. sammy good was a different boy. in 1965 you could be different to a point, to a point that was considered okay. for instance, you could have blue eyes while the other kids had brown ideas. your hair could have a rusty color while others may be sandy or dark. there were tall kids and short kids, fat kids, skinny kids, even kids with -- you know where this is going. [laughter] they all love hot dogs. it was a commercial back then.
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what there weren't in our neighborhood were boys who fell in love with other boys. of course, there were those boys, but we didn't know that in fifth grade. it's not that anyone was opposed to homosexuality, it's just that there was no need to oppose it because it just didn't exist. it would be like opposing unicorns or atlantis. how can you hate something that isn't real? this made it all the more critical that if you were a boy who liked boys or a girl who liked girls, you'd better guard that secret like it was your own personal force knox, sealed airtight and inpenetrable. you had to behave knowing that you were an alien who landed from another planet, but in human form. no one knew you were an alien, and if they ever found out who you really were, they would annihilate you. the knowledge that you were not like others was so scary to
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possess that if you came across another boy-loving alien, you could not let on to that homosexual who you really were. but, of course, the other alien would know. yet you dare not risk making contact with each other for if you were caught by the normal people, they could ruin you. sometimes you had to turn in one of your own just to prove you weren't one of them. it was an often devastating experience to be gay in the '50s and '60s and '70s and '80s and '90s and finish it made you sometimes do very cruel and unnecessary things to yourself and to others. such was the case with a boy three doors down from us on la peer street. mr. and mrs. good had three children; sammy, alice and jerry.
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mr. good always drove a new model car, usually a buick. he was friendly but reserved, a bit shorter than the other dads on the the street. he was educated, but in those days that was seen as a good thing, and our dads who weren't often went to him to listen to what he had to say. he was different in two other ways. he had a black moustache on a street devoid of facial hair. and he was a jew. sometime around the summer of 1964 a sound started coming out of the normally quiet good house, the goods' house. not the good house. it was a thumping noise, a low, vibrating thump that occurred in a repetitive rhythm, sort of like a beat to a song but no song any of us were familiar with. boom-ba of-boom. boom-ba-boom. it could have been mr. good working on something with his
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new craftsman tools, or maybe the local exterminator was trying to root out a possum that had gotten under the crawlspace. but, no, it was none of that. it was black people's music, specifically, the supremes, a group none of us had heard of. the song was "where did our love go," and where it went was across the three backyards of the street and in through our living room window and straight into my tapping toe. sammy good had been given a record player for christmas, yes, the goods celebrated christmas as we all did on that street. he was given a bunch of records that had the name motown on them. they were small records, one song on the front, one song on the back with groups called the miracles, the marvelettes, and somebody called little stevie wonder. they all lived near us in detroit, a place we knew from
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driving to tiger ball games. we would look across the yards and see sammy on the back porch every today after school playing his motown records and dancing. we'd seen this kind of dancing before on tv on "american bandstand" and on "shin dig" but we'd never seen it in person, and there he was, dancing up a storm in a world all his own. sammy good's afternoon dance party live from la peer street. one day he invited us younger boys in. the older boys were playing baseball and saw this. they knew what this music meant, and they knew what sammy was. we would go over day after day to sammy's dance party and dance with him. one day sammy brought out his mother's rouge and eye liner to show us how we could do ourselves up, and the older boys across the street saw this, and it was then that they had to put
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their foot down. sammy became the victim of multiple slappings, punchings, beatings and face washings in the dirt or snow. all of this drove sammy into a dark place. the phenomenal hate toward him did not in turn make him want to love others, and so he took it out on us, the little ones. we weren't quite sure at our age why the older boys were so mean to him, but we soon learned that sammy saw us as just a shorter version of his tormenters. and he began slapping and punching and pushing us. one day he tied one of the boys to a chair, and the mother had to come over and get him and yelled at sammy and whacked him across the face. we all quickly stopped going to the afternoon dance party. we were told to stay away from there. one day i was coming home from school riding my bike on the
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sidewalk, and sammy saw me. i tried to cross on the patch of lawn to get away from him, but it was his lawn, and he started screaming, get off the lawn, get off the lawn! never come on our lawn! don't give me any lip! he then threw a stick into the spokes of my like, and i fell off my bike scraping my elbow and my face. i went running home in tears. at our house our cousins were there from the east side of flynt, the mull rooneys. four boys older than me, the thuggish type from the east side, they ran out, they said, what happened? i said sammy did this. sammy was still outside on his lawn. they ran over and surrounded him. sammy tried to fight back, but he was, he was unable, he was unable to resist their violence. and within minutes they had him on the ground slapping and kicking him and beating him.
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sissy! you fight like a girl! go put on your dress! as i watched this, i was pleased that my cousins had taken care of him. my dad was not so happy. he yelled out to the cousin, stop right thousand and come in the house -- right now and come in the house! he told me, you can't use your cousins to defend yourself. what they did was wrong. you need to learn to fight. i'm sending you town to the y -- down to the y for boxing class. about three months later around 10:00 in the evening, there was a knock on our front door. it was mr. popper, a large but soft spoken man who lived across the street. frank, the good boy has gone missing. his parents think he might have been kidnapped, taken out to the woods. they called the police, but we're going to go search for him. can you come? sure, my dad said. he went and got our large flash
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light and a baseball bat. within minutes, most of the men in the neighborhood gathered on our lawn, even of them wearing the kind of hunting jackets one wears in the late michigan fall. my sisters and i already in our pajamas and in bed came out to the living room to watch the scene unfold. my sisters started crying. they heard the word kidnapping. they didn't want anything to happen to dad. our mother told us to go back to bed, but instead we watched the men go through the woods with their 12 flash lights going through the air like, criss-crossing each other like colleague lights at a summer carnival. after what seemed like hours, dad returned empty handed. he's not back there, he told my mom. no telling where he is, but he's not back there. the other men delivered the news to mrs. good, and she broke down crying. her husband put his arm around her to comfort her, and they walked slowly back to their
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house as did everyone else to theirs. the next day sammy was found near pontiac, michigan, he'd either hitchhiked or taken the bus. he was wandering the street, and he was hungry, but he didn't want to go back home. he was tired of the insults and the bullies and the beatings and the inability to enjoy his dance party in peace. he had made it more than halfway to hitsville, usa. and it was said later that after he'd run away again that he'd wanted to neat -- meet the supremes and help them with their styling. i'm sure he could have made a significant contribution, and i'm certain that a more open and diverse place like detroit might have suited him better. we never saw sammy again. he went to live with an aunt, and that was the last anyone wanted to discuss the subject. one before his high school graduation, sammy made his way the new york city.
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perhaps a more accepting and forgiving place. after all, it was 1968, it was just months -- '69, months before the stonewall uprising. a change was taking place, and new york would be a better place. and it was in new york city that he went for a stroll one night down west 13th street to pier 54 and threw himself into the hudson river. that story was called "search party." [applause] um, yeah, there are funnier stories in the book. last one. um, and then we'll take some questions. this story is set in the early 1980s, i'm about 27 years old,
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and it's called "a blessing." my priest had a confession he wanted to make to me. i have serious blood on my be hands, michael, the father said softly. i want you to know. we were sitting on the porch of my newspaper office, the priest and i. he was the former pastor of sacred heart church in flynt. he was now retired but still volunteering, doing work in the projects, helping out the poor and volunteering at my alternative newspaper, "the flynt voice." living in downtown flynt, i had stopped going to mass six years prior, so father george was the closest thing i had to a priest, and i still very much believed in the central tenets of the faith, to love one another, to love your enemy, to do unto others as you would want them to do to you. i agreed that one had a personal responsibility to assist the poor, the infirm, the imprisoned
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and the looks down upon, but i wasn't much in favor of the church's edicts when it came to many issues including ones that hurt people like gay people or made other second-class citizens like women or used the fires of hell to scare people about sex. i enjoyed my weekly and monthly meetings with the priest, and i would even attend mass at some of the churches where he conducted it. he became my de facto pastor. but now he wanted to tell me something. i'd only known him at this point for a few short months, so the talk of blood on my hands was a bit shocking, and i was instantly uncomfortable. he pulled out an old photograph and pointed to it. in the center of the photo was a plane, and in the front of the plane was a group of airmen. and in the middle of the airmen was a chaplain, a priest. that's me, he said, pointing at the much-younger version of himself. that's me. he looked at me as if i were supposed to know something or say something.
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i looked at him confused, trying to understand what it was he was trying to say. so you were in world war ii, i said sympathetically. so was my dad. he continued to look at me as if i weren't get cg it. what does it say on the plane, he asked. i looked closely to see the writing on the nose of the plane. oh. e knoll la -- e knoll la bay. right, father george said. i was the chaplain for the 509th. i was their priest. on august 6, 1945, i blessed the bomb that they dropped on hi hiroshima. i took a deep breath staring at the photo, then looking away, then looking at him. his dark eyes seemed even darker now. i was the chaplain of the e knoll la gay. i said pass for them before they flew and dropped the bomb with
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my blessing, with the blessing of jesus christ and the church. i did that. i didn't know what to say. he continued. and three days later i blessed the crew and the plane that dropped the bomb on nagasaki. nagasaki was a catholic city, the only majority christian city in japan. the pie rot of the plane was -- pilot of the plane was catholic, and we obliterated the lives of 40,000 on that day, 73,000 people in all. there was now a mist in his eyes as he told me of this horror. there were three orders of nuns in japan, all based in nagasaki. every last single one of the nuns was vaporized. not a single nun from any of these orders was alive, and i blessed that. i didn't know what to say. i reached out my hand and put it on his shoulder. george, you department drop the bomb. -- you didn't drop the bomb, you didn't plan the destruction of
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those cities. you were there to do your job, to minister to the needs of these young men. no, he insisted, it's not that easy. i was part of it. i said nothing. i wanted us to win. i was part of the effort. everyone had a role to play. my role was to condone it in the name of christ. he explained that far from being repulsed when he heard the news of hiroshima, he felt what most americans felt, relief that maybe this would with be the end of the war. he recounted how a month later he went to japan after the surrender. he ended up in nagasaki and went and found the cathedral in ruin. but did you know on the morning of august 6th that the enola gay was going to drop the bomb? did you know what the bomb was, i said to him? no, we didn't.
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all we knew is it was special. nobody had any idea. well, then if you didn't know, you weren't responsible. not true. not true. it is the responsibility of every human to know their actions and the consequences of their actions and to ask questions and to question when things are wrong. but, george, this is war. no one's allowed to ask any questions. and that's exactly the kind of attitude that continues to get us into more wars, no one asking any questions, especially in the military. blind obedience. we didn't let the germans get away with that, did we? but, george, the difference was we were the good guys. we were the ones who were attacked. all true, he said. and history is written by the victors. a good case can be made that the japanese were already ready to surrender. we wanted to drop those bombs. we wanted to send a message to
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the russians. he looked straight at me. you can say that i didn't know anything before hiroshima about what the bomb would do, but what about three days later? i knew then. i knew what would happen to the next city which turned out to be nagasaki, and yet i blessed, i blessed the bomb. i blessed the crew. i blessed the slaughter. god, have mercy on me. george told me how that in the late '60s he had his st. paul moment where he was knocked off his horse, and he realized that he had to completely change his ways. he dedicated his life to total pacifism from that point on. his sermons were about the vietnam war. he allowed -- he supported a chapter of sds. he even let the weathermen use the church to sleep in during their infamous convention in flynt in 1969. knowing full well that they were anything but pacifists
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themselves. i will have much the answer for when i meet st. peter at those gates, he said. i'm hopeful he will be merciful to me. father george then went on an 8,000 walk from seattle to the holy land. that took him two years. when he returned, he came to see me. michael, i've been thinking for some time and wondering, why did you leave the seminary? i had gone to the seminary in high school to be a priest. why didn't you continue on to be a priest? well, i said, a number of reasons. i was only 14 when i went. by 15 the hormones kicked in. plus, i didn't and don't care for the institution and its hierarchy. and what the institution says it stands for has little to do these days with the teachings of jesus christ. oh, and they also told me not to
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come back. [laughter] he said, i've been reading some of your comments about the church and the pope in your newspaper, and i'm just worried about your soul. i laughed, george, you tonight have to worry -- you don't have to worry about me or my soul, i'm doing just fine. but it seems that you've left the church. let's just say i'm a recovering catholic. that did not go over well. would you do me a favor and pray with me right now? are you serious, george? yes. i just want to make sure you're going to be okay. i'm going to be okay, and i pray when i need to. just say the lord's prayer with me right now. and he began. our father who part heaven -- who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name -- george, stop! this isn't necessary. thy kingdom come, thy will be
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done on earth -- george, stop! this is creeping me out. don't say that about the lord's prayer, michael. i think you need this. i don't need it, and i don't want it. and i don't know what's gotten into you. he became silent. he looked at me, he said nothing. i didn't know what to say. the silence was excruciating. it's important that you carry on, he said, when he finally spoke. it's important to do what you do, but you can't do it without the church. you need the church. and the church needs you. you need to go back to mass. you need to find a place within the church where you can find peace. i realized that he was talking about himself. i realized that he still blamed himself for whatpp